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As we sit here on January 30th, there are very few unknowns on the NBA landscape. After all, the season is three months old, and most teams have played anywhere from 42 to 47 games thus far. Every one of the 30 NBA teams has advanced scouts that know just about every potential line-up that a team could throw on the floor at any time, and how to defend said line-up. In the year 2013, there are no secrets. Well, almost none.

When the Celtics starting five of Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett took the floor for the opening tip on Sunday against Miami, many commented that it was the first time the five had started together this season, and that was true. However, amazingly enough, it wasn't just the first time they had started together - it was the first time they'd played together. Take a look at this basketball reference page that lists the top 20 line-ups that the C's have used this season. Notice anything? The current starting unit isn't on the list. The quintet has played together all of 12 minutes and 27 seconds (again, all vs the Heat on Sunday), and played Miami to a 26-26 tie during their time on the court. While the results vs Miami weren't anything to right home about, I think this has a chance to really work in the Celtics favor, at least in the short term. A few reasons:

- No tape - As I mentioned above, NBA teams pour through game tape, analyzing what teams like to do with each line-up they utilize on the floor. But in the short term, teams will have barely anything to go off of with the Celtics. While it is true that this also means the grouping has very little game experience with one another, practice at least off-sets some of that.

- Lee & Bradley, defensive aces - While the loss of Rajon Rondo for the season will undoubtedly hurt the Celtics on the offensive end, isn't it also fair to say the team will see a boost on D? Rondo's defense had slipped considerably over the past few seasons (possibly related to how much energy he exerts on offense), and he had become more of a risk taker as opposed to a stout on-ball defender. Enter Lee, who will be guarding the 2nd guard option as Bradley hounds the first, and this has the potential to be the best defensive backcourt in basketball (Yes I'm aware that it also might be the worst offensive backcourt). The fact that these two have barely played together thanks to Rondo's huge playing time, and Bradley's shoulder injury, also adds a mystery factor. I think having both Lee and Bradley opens the door for a ton of pressing opportunities that the C's just did not have when Rondo was on the floor.

- Ball handling by committee - When #9 was on the court, you knew who was handling the ball. The offense ran through Rondo on nearly every offensive possession, for better, or for worse. Now? Who the hell knows. There are sure to be times when Rondo's play making ability is missed dearly, but at least in the short term, isn't there a little bit of value in unpredictability? The Celtics will most likely have Bradley and Lee handle the ball across half-court, but after that, they have a myriad of options. As we saw on Sunday, Pierce has the ability to run the offense, and Lee and Bradley, while raw, can also share in point guard duties. Again, I'm not saying that the team won't miss Rondo - they will. But the bottom line is that all of the teams that the C's are about to play, game planned for a Celtics team that pounded the ball through Rondo. Now that will not be the case. Doesn't that give the Green an advantage?

One thing that will be interesting to see, is how much the unit actually plays together. Just because they're the 'Starting 5' doesn't mean they will be on the court together a ton. On Sunday, they played just twelve and a half minutes together, but I think a lot of that had to do with getting Jeff Green on the floor to guard Lebron (Green played 41 minutes). Look for this unit to play more tonight against Sacramento, and thanks to the element of surprise, look for them to succeed.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

Michael Dyer 1/30/2013 05:26:00 PM Edit
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